letter to editor stock art typewriter and notebook

I have both degrees in engineering and economics and pursued careers in both. I thus see many community issues from both perspectives: what things cost to design and build and whether the public expenditure is needed on a cost/benefit basis.

I am a skeptic of publicly funded bicycle paths, and during my travels throughout my community (almost daily by car), I annually count the number of active bicycles I observe using the dedicated Chan/Chaska paths. Counting for 15 years, I first encountered double YTD (Year To Date) digits (over nine cumulatively) by June in 2016 and only 17 thus far this year! I have asked informally of the Chan city technical staff what engineering and economic criteria have been used to justify building more paths, with no response.

I returned September from an 8,000 mile, three-week, vacation to the United States northwest (thus while kids going to school weekdays) and counted the following active bicyclists (both on paths and not on paths): Oregon 48, Idaho 37, Wyoming 9, Montana 0, North Dakota 0, Nebraska 0, Iowa 0, and Minnesota 0. Of course Oregon is vocal about being green, so I assume the “two score and eight” count is embarrassing. There seems to be little use for bicycle paths in those states (100± headcount over three weeks).

As an engineer I always had to elucidate design criteria, so I would hope that traffic head counts, as are done for designing roads for automobiles, would be a primary source of demonstrating an engineering need for separate paths. (I am not critical of half-lanes and shoulder spaces for bikes.) I have not in my town encountered such data (if it exists).

As a resident and taxpayer, I would wish to be given a publicly perused acknowledgement of the justification for this cost to my fellow citizens of Chanhassen (and Chaska for that matter) for stand-alone bicycle paths.

Some who have heard my complaints have suggested the expenditure is justified because some pedestrians use them and are functionally sidewalks. If so, then a cheaper design should be adopted, as pedestrians are less destructive to pavements.

I have also been told that federal subsidies for local roads obligate multi-user facilities, yet the funding for city streets need not be federally funded — right? Bells and whistles are just that — bells and whistles.

Dr. Edward N. Tipton


Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.


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